MY MOM AND I had the exact same shoe size, and by the time I was 16, we were roughly the same height and shape—about one refrigerator high and half as wide. Although we had distinctly different styles (she was much more likely to wear a polka-dotted shirt than I), we shared an affinity for oversized hoodies, sweatpants and polar fleece, and I often plucked hers—somehow more comfortable than any other garments in the house—from the laundry bin as November arrived. Winters in Winnipeg force you to dress for extreme weather, and my mom’s body was invariably wrapped in clothing that ensured warmth, a sensation she transferred to whomever she encountered through a deep hug that always came at the perfect moment.
My mom, whose name was Carol Leszcz, was an energetic, one-stop problem-solving service who could look at any obstacle and quickly devise a rational solution to get to the other side. Her wardrobe was likewise competent and fit for any situation. But in January 2012, when I was 16, her sweatshirts were replaced by hospital gowns.
Something was wrong with her white blood cells, I remember my dad telling me. We didn’t yet know it was leukemia, but in the gravity of the moment we knew our lives were about to change. When I got to her ward, I found her sitting in bed, smiling. She quickly told me everything would be fine; the only thing that would make her sad, she said, would be if I stopped doing what I loved—working at summer camp, playing sports, seeing movies on Tuesday nights—on account of her illness.
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